Italian Easter Bread at Villabate Bakery

Robert recently wrote about sanguinaccio, the Lenten chocolate pudding made with fresh pigs' blood available at Bensonhurst's Villabate Bakery. Villabate was opened in 1980 by a Sicilian family, and is one of the best old-school Italian bakeries in the city. (The Grand Opening sign is there because they recently moved to a larger location, half a block down.) Yesterday, I stopped in looking for something less bloody: Italian Easter bread. My mother used to make this yeasty, eggy, sweet-citrusy bread every year. We made it in the shape of a ring, the surface dotted with colored Easter eggs and sprinkles.

Many traditionally Catholic countries celebrate the end of Lent with an elaborate bread, made into a cross (for obvious reasons), or into a ring (to symbolize the crown of thorns). Eggs have been celebrated a symbol of spring and new life since Pagan times, and Christians co-opted them as a symbol of Christ's rebirth. Plus, for centuries the Catholic church forbid eggs during Lent, so by the time Easter rolled around, everyone would be pretty excited about eating eggs again.

Villabate was hopping yesterday, the crush of people picking up Easter goodies. By the time I left, the line was out the door. But I did manage to score two small Easter breads. They are wonderful: mildly sweet and eggy, a bit like brioche, and orange-scented.

Plus, displayed behind protective plastic wrap (that's why the picture is so bad), were elaborate marzipan dioramas, mainly composed of marzipan lambs lying down with mini Snickers, in trippy, neon landscapes. Much cooler than a hollow chocolate bunny in a basket filled with plastic green grass.

Villabate Bakery 7001 18th Avenue, Brooklyn 718-331-8430


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